I must confess at the outset that, though I have no ill-will against you, I intensely dislike your attack upon China. From your lofty height you have descended to imperial ambition. You will fail to realize that ambition and may become the authors of the dismemberment of Asia, thus unwittingly preventing world federation and brotherhood without which there can be no hope for humanity.
Ever since I was a lad of eighteen studying in London over fifty years
ago, I learnt, through the writings of the late Sir Edwin Arnold,
to prize the many excellent qualities of your nation. I was thrilled
when in South Africa I learnt of your brilliant victory over Russian
arms. After my return to India from South Africa in 1915, I came in
close touch with Japanese monks who lived as members of our Ashram
from time to time. One of them became a valuable member of the Ashram
in Sevagram, and his application to duty, his dignified bearing, his
unfailing devotion to daily worship, affability, unruffledness under
varying circumstances, and his natural smile which was positive evidence
of his inner peace had endeared him to all of us. And now that owing
to your declaration of war against Great Britain he has been taken
away from us, we miss him as a dear co¬worker. He has left behind
him as a memory his daily prayer and his little drum, to the accompaniment
of which we open our morning and evening prayers.
In the background of these pleasant recollections I grieve deeply
as I contemplate what appears to me to be your unprovoked attack against
China and, if reports are to be believed, your merciless devastation
of that great and ancient land.
It was a worthy ambition of yours to take equal rank with the Great
Powers of the world. Your aggression against China and your alliance
with the Axis Powers was surely an unwarranted excess of that ambition.
I should have thought that you would be proud of the fact that that
great and ancient people, whose old classical literature you have
adopted as your own, are your neighbours. Your understanding of one
another's history, tradition, literature should bind you as friends
rather than make you the enemies you are today.
If I was a free man, and if you allowed me to come to your country,
frail though I am, I would not mind risking my health, may be my life,
to come to your country to plead with you to desist from the wrong
you are doing to China and the world and therefore to yourself.
But I enjoy no such freedom. And we are in the unique position of
having to resist imperialism that we detest no less than yours and
Nazism. Our resistance to it does not mean harm to the British people.
We seek to convert them. Ours is an unarmed revolt against British
rule. An important party in the country is engaged in a deadly but
friendly quarrel with the foreign rulers.
But in this they need no aid from foreign Powers. You have been gravely
misinformed, as I know you are, that we have chosen this particular
moment to embarrass the Allies when your attack against India is imminent.
If we wanted to turn Britain's difficulty into our opportunity we
should have done it as soon as the war broke out nearly three years
Our movement demanding the withdrawal of the British Power from India
should in no way be misunderstood. In fact, if we are to believe your
reported anxiety for the independence of India, a recognition of that
independence by Britain should leave you no excuse for any attack
on India. Moreover, the reported profession sorts ill with your ruthless
aggression against China.
I would ask you to make no mistake about the fact that you will be
sadly disillusioned if you believe that you will receive a willing
welcome from India. The end and aim of the movement for British withdrawal
is to prepare India, by making her free for resisting all militarist
and imperialist ambition, whether it is called British Imperialism,
German Nazism, or your pattern. If we do not, we shall have been ignoble
spectators of the militarization of the world in spite of your belief
that in non-violence we have the only solvent of the militarist spirit
and ambition. Personally I fear that without declaring the independence
of India the Allied Powers will not be able to beat the Axis combination
which has raised violence to the dignity of a religion. The Allies
cannot beat you and your partners unless they beat you in your ruthless
and skilled warfare. If they copy it their declaration that they will
save the world for democracy and individual freedom must come to naught.
I feel that they can only gain strength to avoid copying your ruthlessness
by declaring and recognizing now the freedom of India, and turning
sullen India's forced co-operation into freed India's voluntary co-operation.
To Britain and the Allies we have appealed in the name of justice,
in proof of their professions, and in their own self-interest. To
you I appeal in the name of humanity. It is a marvel to me that you
do not see that ruthless warfare is nobody's monopoly. If not the
Allies some other Power will certainly improve upon your method and
beat you with your own weapon. Even if you win you will leave no legacy
to your people of which they would feel proud. They cannot take pride
in a recital of cruel deeds however skillfully achieved.
Even if you win it will not prove that you were in the right, it will
only prove that your power of destruction was greater. This applies
obviously to the Allies too, unless they perform now the just and
righteous act of freeing India as an earnest and promise of similarly
freeing all other subject peoples in Asia and Africa.
Our appeal to Britain is coupled with the offer of Free India's willingness
to let the Allies retain their troops in India. The offer is made
in order to prove that we do not in any way mean to harm the Allied
cause, and in order to prevent you from being misled into feeling
that you have but to step into the country that Britain has vacated.
Needless to repeat that if you cherish any such idea and will carry
it out, we will not fail in resisting you with all the might that
our country can muster. I address this appeal to you in the hope that
our movement may even influence you and your partners in the right
direction and deflect you and them from the course which is bound
to end in your moral ruin and the reduction of human beings to robots.
The hope of your response to my appeal is much fainter than that of
response from Britain. I know that the British are not devoid of a
sense of justice and they know me. I do not know you enough to be
able to judge. All I have read tells me that you listen to no appeal
but to the sword. How I wish that you are cruelly misrepresented and
that I shall touch the right chord in your heart! Any way I have an
undying faith in the responsiveness of human nature. On the strength
of that faith I have conceived the impending movement in India, and
it is that faith which has prompted this appeal to you.